Flat White

Are the ABC FactCheck scales of justice weighted?

8 October 2018

7:33 PM

8 October 2018

7:33 PM

Last week your ABC ran a fact-check on a statement by Senator Matt Canavan — well, it actually had a unit run by a former Age leftie at the RMIT run the check — and announced that his claim was baseless.

Senator Canavan, while participating in a protest against the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which seeks to decriminalise Queensland’s abortion law, had claimed that the Bill would permit unrestricted abortions after 22 weeks. The fonts of all known wisdom at RMIT rejected his claim.

Your ABC outlined the legal restrictions on abortions beyond 22 weeks in the following terms: “While abortions would be available on request up to 22 weeks, the bill would require two doctors to consider “all the circumstances” before performing an abortion after 22 weeks.

The Bill, however, at section 6(1) actually says that the medical practitioner can terminate after 22 weeks if:

(a) the medical practitioner considers that, in all the circumstance, the termination should be performed; and

(b) the medical practitioner has consulted with another medical practitioner who also considers that, in all the circumstances, the termination should be performed.

According to the Bill, only the first doctor has to consult the patient and consider all the circumstances. The second doctor does not consult the patient; he or she reviews the abortionist’s decision. We can safely assume that the two doctors will have no moral objection to the provision of abortions at any stage including the day before live birth. But since the reviewing doctor does not consult the patient, the only circumstances he can review are those considered by the first doctor. This doctor is not in a position to know whether there are any other circumstances that the first doctor should have considered.

Section 6(2) is the hangman’s section. It guarantees the destruction of the infant. It outlines the circumstances that should be considered by the doctor who performs the abortion – he must consider all the circumstances. Section 6(2) says they include: (a) the woman’s ‘relevant medical circumstances,’ (b) her current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances,’ and (c) all relevant professional standards and guidelines.  Subsection (c) might seem like an oddity, but it links to section 9 which raises the threat of deregistration for a doctor who refuses to participate as a matter of conscience (s. 8(3)).

What you can see, however, is that the Bill does not state what weight a doctor should give to each of the different circumstances he must consider. A healthy young woman carrying a healthy infant would not seem to qualify for an abortion under s. 6(2)(a) but then, why not? If she complains that she won’t be able to afford to educate the infant and also travel overseas or pay gym fees, that is entitling – what abortionist is going to insist on tax returns to determine that question? And if she complains that mentally she is unfit to bring up a girl-child or wants nothing to do with a boy child, how will any doctor determine the validity of that evidence to see if she satisfies section 6(2)(b) – unless he just takes her at her word. And what does all the circumstances mean in practice?

No doctor will refuse a woman’s request for an abortion of a child after 22 weeks no matter how fictitious or irrational her reasons, for to do otherwise will risk a complaint and possible disciplinary action. And the doctor’s decision will be reviewed and approved by his colleague.

The simple truth is that in a practical sense, Senator Canavan is correct: the Bill permits an abortion after 22 weeks as of right; the woman has only to ask and she has only to have a subjective reason, any reason. There are no real hurdles in the Bill that have to be jumped before an abortion is granted. In fact, it would be useful to know how many requests for abortions in Victoria were rejected. That at least would provide some transparency for the Queensland government’s claims for the effectiveness of its legislation.

Having considered the legislation, I must say that I agree with Senator Canavan when he said the Bill would effectively permit unrestricted abortions after 22 weeks and the Your ABC/RMIT fact-check was wrong. Unfortunately, Your ABC does not provide any space on its website where comments correcting or disagreeing with their views can be posted. If Senator Canavan and the Scott Morrison government want to do something practical that will remedy

Your ABC’s penchant for bias without prejudicing its editorial integrity, they should discover a way to ensure that the national broadcaster makes space available at the conclusion of each online news or oped item where the public can express their opinions about the matter.

Online media in the USA like Breitbart.com makes unlimited space available for comment. How it will be arranged here would be largely up to the broadcaster, provided its moderators aren’t used as on-line censors and as vehicles to promote the hysterical left-wing lunatics who troll the ether. If the space is available, at least those who manufacture

Your ABC’s online bias could well be held to account by the public, you know, those who pay their salaries.

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